Communication Matters Newsletter
MillsWyck Communications - May 2018
A Checklist of questions speakers should ask
BEFORE they speak
It’s a regular call I make: a final check with a client about my upcoming program. I always ask what the audience needs to hear. Everyone has the same message, it seems. “ We’re different. We have unique challenges when it comes to communications. ” Yep. They’re different. Just like everybody else. While I don’t discount that there are differences that matter, the core message I am hired to deliver will play in almost every organization, city, and demographic I can imagine. I’ve seen this play out enough that my confidence is high and I'm sure we can pull this off.

But if I rest on that last sentence, failure is lurking. Remember that small print on all your financial statements: " Past success is not an indicator of future returns. " Just because others have received my program well does not mean that this client will approve. I've learned (please don't ask HOW I've learned. This is a place for positive, feel-good stories!) to ask a few important questions of a meeting planner that could save the program from disaster. 
Here are some of the questions on my checklist regardless of how sure I am in my message:

Who's in the audience? 
This is the most important detail to understand. How many will be there? What are their expectations? What is their biggest pain? What is their motivation for being in the room? Are they interactive? Upset/grumpy? What will they be wearing? The whole first half of our content workshop is about understanding your audience. It should be the driving force behind everything a speaker says and does. The more you know about the audience, the better your talk can become.
What's your definition of success? 
This is my favorite question to ask. I want the person signing the check to state exactly what they see as a program worth their money. If they can't articulate what success looks like, then I know that they trust me, but there is also WAY too much leeway in our assignment. I then will help them find the problems I will help them solve. I don't want to just "be a speaker" - I want to be a trusted advisor making them better, ostensibly with communication, but often much more. If success isn’t discussed, then it’s unlikely there will be met objectives.
There are practical questions worth asking, too:

What's the room layout? 
While I would argue (and teach) that a speaker should be able to adapt to any situation, there are some layouts that are better than others. If there's a meal involved, there will frequently be lots of distractions, which is a whole different set of problems from rows of seats in a conference ballroom. 

I frequently ask the meeting organizer to take two pictures and send them to me: one from where they think I'll be standing and one from the back row of the audience facing back towards the front. Those two photos can tell me all I need to know on what will and won't work with regards to movement, audience participation, and distractions.
Is it being videotaped?
I don’t want the client to broadcast my speech to places I cannot control. I usually restrict video use to inside the organization that hired me and only for a limited amount of time. But I also ask for a copy of the video. The first reason is that I want to evaluate my performance and video is the only way to do that. But I also may want to use clips from the talk to pass on to other prospective clients. The best way to prove you can speak is to show yourself speaking. A demo video is a must for any prospective speaker.
What's the audio/visual setup? 
Bad sound can scuttle a presentation/speech/talk in no time. Is there a mic? Is it a lapel, hand-held, or over-the-ear? Is there someone on call that can help when (not if), the audio begins to go bad? Side note: Regardless of what you’re told, bring your own mic, spare batteries, and remotes - don't risk someone else's incompetence to mess up your talk. And a Starbucks gift card for the AV guy isn’t a bad idea, either.

Is the projector mounted, or on a table with a beam I'll have to walk through? Is the aspect ratio 16x9 or 4x3? What is the “normal” style of presenting the audience is used to seeing? (Hint: search the web for past presentations and you can get an idea.) Is a flip chart available?
And a few questions I ask (again) on the day of the program:
How much time do we have? 
This seems obvious, as they surely told you when you signed the contract. But things change and guests are given program time. Before I take the stage, I ask, “ What is the absolute, drop-dead time that people will want me off the stage? ” I don't accept, " Oh, they'll love you, take whatever time you need. " People do NOT ever (EVER!) want the speaker to run over.  So you MUST finish on time. Which means you MUST know what the end time really is. Have a mechanism for shortening your talk when (not if) the speaker in front of you runs over. Bring a clock or iPad to display the time so you know.

Where am I in the program? 
Who is before me? Who is after me? What does the transition/segue look like? Who will introduce me (have a bio sheet ready for them, and get to know them so they have something personal to add)? Who do I hand the program back to?

This is not a comprehensive list, to be sure, but it's a great start to assure that you will not embarrass yourself as the "guest speaker." And please note this list says nothing about the legal issues of travel, payments, and contract. This is about you being the best you can be on stage and having a message that resonates in every audience member’s mind.

Got additions? What questions have you found successful in securing those speaking gigs? Tweet them to us @millswyck .

Communication matters. What are YOU saying?
"Winning Communication" Presentation at
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Join Alan Hoffler as he speaks at Triangle American Marketing Association's Thursday, May 3rd "Drink & Think" for a mix of networking and learning in the heart of the Triangle. This FREE Drink & Think event for Triangle AMA's members and guests happens every first Thursday of the month at  The Frontier in Research Triangle Park . The first hour of the event is part of The Frontier’s happy hour sponsored by AMA Triangle. It will then be followed by a 30-minute keynote and discussion from 6:45 to 7:15 PM. Join Alan as he speaks on the topic of "Winning Communication."
Podcast Interview -- The Mindset of Do'ers

Alan Hoffler was a recent guest on Craig Hallenberger's podcast, The Mindset of Do'ers. Craig created his own coaching system, the ART of Being Successful, to assist folks in staying focused in their own lives to become do'ers. His podcast interviews those who have an idea and actually "do it," even when they have no idea how it will turn out. Alan's interview centered on the book he co-wrote with his brother, Eric. The book is entitled 6 Steps Forward: Every Man matters and is about the six stages in every man's life that define his legacy.

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Upcoming Public Workshops
2018 Public Workshop Schedule
Raleigh, NC

May 14-15 (Last one before August! Just a couple of seats left!)
Aug 27-28,
Oct 15-16, Dec 10-11

Aug 29
Sneak Peek Video
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Alan Hoffler, founder and director of MillsWyck Communications, is a Business Communication and Presentation Skills Expert and accomplished keynote speaker. He uses the skills he teaches to craft authentic, custom messages that energize and motivate audiences.  

Alan's Signature Business Communications Topics:
  • Winning Communication - Strategies to Connect and Convince
  • Presentation Sin: The Practical Guide to Stop Offending (and start Impressing) Your Audience
  • Why Modern Business Communication is Killing Productivity (and what you can do about it)
  • The Silver Bullet: The One Skill Every Communicator Should Use
  • Sound Like You Feel: How to Express Passion When You Speak

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MillsWyck Communications
Communication matters. What are YOU saying?
Alan Hoffler, Philorator (Teacher & Lover of Speaking)
(919) 386-9238 

Alan Hoffler is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer at MillsWyck Communications. He is a Trainer, Speaker, Author, and Coach who passionately moves others to effective and engaging communication.